Burial Rites by Hannah Kent: Book Review

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Synopsis: A brilliant literary debut, inspired by a true story: the final days of a young woman accused of murder in Iceland in 1829.

Set against Iceland’s stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution.

Horrified at the prospect of housing a convicted murderer, the family at first avoids Agnes. Only Tóti, a priest Agnes has mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian, seeks to understand her. But as Agnes’s death looms, the farmer’s wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story they’ve heard.

Riveting and rich with lyricism, BURIAL RITES evokes a dramatic existence in a distant time and place, and asks the question, how can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others?

Publisher: Picador

Date Published: August 29, 2013

No. Of Pages: 338

Date Read: March 25, 2016

Source: Book Depository 

 

REVIEW

RIVETING AS IT WAS HEARTBREAKING. HAUNTING AS IT WAS ACHINGLY BEAUTIFUL.

How could I ever give this book the justice it truly deserves? Words seem to escape my head each passing moment, and I am afraid I may not be able to say everything there is to say. But let me try, let me share my 2 cents, let me tell you how this book floored me. It was so amazing, it’ll probably haunt me in my sleep, not that I would be complaining, it is the kind of nightmare I would dare have, yes, that’s how attached I was to this book.

Historial Fiction has never been my strong suit, it was the genre I tried to avoid for the longest time. I thought my comprehension or attention skill will betray me if I read books of this genre. I am afraid it will not pique my interest, or I will end up being too subjective. Safe to say, historical fiction isn’t my cup of tea. More often than not, when historical fiction is on the table, I’ll pass. It was the genre I was afraid too thread on. But Burial Rites made me a Historical Fiction convert. If every historical fiction book would be as good as this, then I will say, send them my way I am up for the challenge.

Yes, it was a challenge reading Burial Rites, but because I am in this phase where I want myself to be constantly challenged by the books I read, I went ahead and picked up this great book, best decision I have made so far. Burial Rites needed some getting used to, but when you already got the hang of it, it’ll be easier. At first I had a hard time reading the names, I dared not say them out loud though or else the dead will definitely rise from the grave and maybe strangle me in my sleep. The only issue I had with the book was it was slow-paced one, and because we have already established the fact that I am not a historical fiction connoisseur, I really took my sweet time finishing this one. Part of me was afraid that if I whiz through it I might miss important details and another part of me wanted to savor it longer. Did I mention that each sentence was written so beautifully? The author really took time to formulate the perfect sentence, it was really a pleasure to read. I kept saying to myself, was this really just her debut novel? It felt like she has written a thousand books already. Hannah Kent’s writing style is flawless. One I would definitely want to read more of.

I loved the setting – Iceland. This is the first book that I have read that is set there. The writing style made me picture Iceland in such a majestic way yet a little too haunting. I did not miss the way the author described Iceland as a gloomy place yet with a lot of stories to offer.

The characters were all distinct from one another. I highly appreciated the character development. As the story progresses you can notice how each of the characters intertwine   weaving a beautiful relationship, which made my heart ached all the more. I bawled like I haven’t bawled before at the last chapter, especially what Margaret did for Agnes. I also loved Toti and Agnes’ relationship, it was honest and raw. Natan’s character was the one I was so frustrated with, I hope I could elaborate more, but I would’t want to run the risk of spewing out spoilers, so I will leave it at that. I specifically liked Steina’s character, she had this stubborn and annoying side that I have grown to adore. And yes of course, Agnes – her narration of the events made all the book more special. It was the part of the book that I look forward to reading. Each chapter led to what really transpired at Illugastadir, I had my predictions but it didn’t quite meet what unfolded. What happened there wasn’t really a big shocker, it wasn’t something that would make someone gasp or would turn the whole story 360 degrees, if for anything it was narrated in such a sad manner, the melt-your-heart-and-bawl-for-days-on-end-kind-of-narration and I loved it. Made me understand Agnes even more. There was also this unsettling feeling taking residence in the crevices of my thoughts towards the end of the book, and all those pent up emotions added up and I lost it. I was really crying.

I really commend how well-researched this book is. It was really a product of effort and hard work. Hannah Kent easily became one of my favorite authors, and I can’t wait to read more of her works. Now go buy this book and devour its beauty!

RATING: rating_5stars

“I cannot think of what it was not to love him. To look at him and realise I had found what I had not known I was hungering for. A hunger so deep, so capable of driving me into the night, that it terrified me.”
― Hannah KentBurial Rites

 

Broken by Traci L. Slatton: Book Review

Synopsis: Power is pornographic Can love sustain light when the forces of evil close in? Paris, 1939-1942. A fallen angel is trapped in the web of German Occupation. The deadly noose of Nazi control grows ever tighter, ensnaring her and two of her lovers, a bullfighter and a musician working in the fledgling Resistance. Can she save them and the Jewish widow and her child that she has come to love, or will betrayal take them all? Date Published: September 5, 2014 Publisher: Parvati Press Source: Net Galley Date Read: December 2014

Synopsis: Power is pornographic
Can love sustain light when the forces of evil close in?
Paris, 1939-1942. A fallen angel is trapped in the web of German Occupation. The deadly noose of Nazi control grows ever tighter, ensnaring her and two of her lovers, a bullfighter and a musician working in the fledgling Resistance. Can she save them and the Jewish widow and her child that she has come to love, or will betrayal take them all?
Date Published: September 5, 2014
Publisher: Parvati Press
Source: Net Galley
Date Read: December 2014

REVIEW:

I received an advance reader’s copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Historical fiction, I have to admit is an uncharted territory, I can not go on claiming I am adept at it, I was only able to scratch the surface, and so because of this, I took a challenge to read this book, see if my young love for historical fiction will bloom, did it? Absolutely yes, this book made me want to read tons of historical fiction.

I was engrossed by the fact that it involved fallen angels, to me it was something out of the ordinary. The first few pages engulfed me and got me hooked, not by the premise alone, but because of the majestic way of how it was so well-written, I kid you not, the chosen words were flawless, the description of the scenes were vivid, You will fall in love with how each sentences were written.
The story started off with Alia, a fallen angel who found refuge into the body of a beautiful woman. Using the body for whatever pleasure she wanted and same pleasure she then returns to another. She lived through fornication, bedding different men – and yes sometimes women. At this point I should have stopped reading. It’s not that I am a sensitive reader, it is just that books with themes like it, are not really my cup of tea, but then there is also this part of me that is eager to learn how will the story progress and I am glad I was able to get past that stage where I was contemplating on continuing or not. I have learned that yes it contains explicit scenes, but the story did not mainly revolve around it. There was far more beautiful story that was brewing, that was the when the Germans took over Paris and Alia is now presented with the predicament on how to protect all the people she values and loves.

As the story progresses, I noticed that there were quite a few scenes that the book can do without. I was a little undecided if I am liking or hating the fact that i had the barest of idea to where the story is taking me, I guess it felt like the story has been dragging on and I could not find the resolution of it all. Also I badly wanted to see where Alia – being a fallen angel comes into play, well aside from the fact the she can see visions and all that, and she could warn them of the impending harm, I guess this fact that she was once an angel can be dispensed with, I mean the book would have been the same if Alia had been just a normal woman. I just thought the fantasy part of the story did not mix well with the story, if for anything – it was put there to make everything seemed convenient. It was not until the last part that the fact that she was a fallen angel played an important part, however again that ending lacked something I cannot quite put my finger into. It felt like the ending was rushed. \

All in all, I still enjoyed the book and it would not be the last book by the author that I will be reading.

RATING: 3 stars

Human beings are complex creatures, caught up in great arcs of cause and effect and poised at the very center of a battle between love and separation.